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China

Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations she has made to her Chinese counterparts on the human rights situation in that country. [86705]

Mr. McCartney: The Government regularly raises human rights issues with the Chinese Government, through ministerial and official contacts, our bilateral Human Rights Dialogue and EU mechanisms. During my visit to China from 14-17 July, I urged the Chinese Government to make early progress towards ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and raised concern about restrictions on freedom of expression, including on the internet and the movement and reporting of journalists. A range of human rights issues, including individual cases, were discussed in depth at the last round of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue on 3 July.

Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received on human rights violations against practitioners of Falun Gong in China. [86706]

Mr. McCartney: The Government regularly raises with the Chinese Government reports of the harassment and arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners, most recently at the last round of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue on 3 July. The Government are aware of media reports of widespread organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China, and a report by a former Canadian Cabinet Minister which supports these allegations. We have seen no further evidence to date to substantiate these reports. We will continue to raise our concerns about human rights violations against Falun Gong practitioners.

Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken to promote human rights observance in China. [88194]

Mr. McCartney: The Government regularly encourages the Chinese Government to improve its observance of human rights, through ministerial engagement, the UK-China human rights dialogue and EU mechanisms. The Government also funds a number of projects in China to improve human rights observance on the ground. These are detailed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) annual human rights report available on the FCO website at:

www.fco.gov.uk/Files/kfile/HumanRights2005.pdf. Our considered view is that a process of critical dialogue is the most effective way of achieving long-term improvements in the field of human rights. I raised human rights issues with the Chinese Government during my recent visit to China. We shall continue to take every appropriate opportunity to raise our concerns about human rights with China.


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Correspondence

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the average cost to her Department was of replying to a letter written (a) by an hon. Member and (b) by a member of the public in the latest period for which figures are available, broken down into (i) officials’ time, (ii) cost of stationery and (iii) postage costs. [80481]

Mr. Hoon: The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the performance of departments in replying to hon. Members/Peers correspondence. The report for 2005 was published on 30 March 2006 (col. 76ws-78ws).

The information requested is not recorded and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Drugs Trade

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 14 May 2002, Official Report, column 625, on the drugs trade, when she will place in the Library the details of the Afghan poppy eradication programme, maps and a video. [87747]

Dr. Howells: I apologise that we have, to date, been unable to locate the material to which my hon. Friend refers. As my hon. Friend will know, officials are in the process of searching archived records from 2002 and will provide any relevant material as soon as they are able.

East Timor

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will place in the Library a copy of the reply the Prime Minister sent to the letter dated 10 March sent by the International Press Institute on the killings of journalists in East Timor. [86000]

Mr. McCartney [holding answer 17 July 2006]: Yes. The letter officials sent to the International Press Institute on 4 July, in response to their letter of 10 March, will be placed in the Library of the House. I will also arrange for a copy of the letter to be sent to my right. hon. Friend.

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 4 July 2006, Official Report, column 931W, on East Timor, what assessment she has made of whether acts of violence in Timor-Leste in 1999 (a) constituted crimes against humanity, (b) were planned by the Indonesian military and (c) were undertaken in opposition to the US mission sanctioned by Indonesia. [87090]

Mr. McCartney: We have no record of any independent detailed assessment of these issues. However, the UN-established serious crimes unit was mandated to investigate crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in East Timor in 1999 and issued a number of indictments against people who were serving in the Indonesian military at that
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time. A parallel process, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) was set up by East Timor to look at less serious offences. The CAVR report found that human rights abuses were committed by Indonesian security forces. These human rights abuses were clearly contrary to the aims of the UN Mission to East Timor.

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 3 July 2006, Official Report, column 863W, on East Timor, what assessment she has made of the role of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR); if she will encourage the Security Council to take CAVR’s findings into consideration; what assessment she has made of the competence of the Joint Indonesian and Timor-Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship to investigate acts of violence in Timor-Leste (a) in 1999 and (b) before 1999; and if she will make a statement. [87091]

Mr. McCartney: We recognise the important work done by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation to promote reconciliation in East Timor, both through its Community Reconciliation Process—whereby those responsible for less serious crimes made amends for their actions outside the formal judicial system, supporting grassroots reconciliation—and through its attempts to determine the truth about human rights violations from 1974-1999. It is for the UN Secretary-General to decide whether to disseminate the Commission’s report within the UN, including in the Security Council. The Commission for Truth and Friendship was set up by the Governments of East Timor and Indonesia specifically to look at the events surrounding the 1999 referendum. It commenced work in August 2005, for a period of one year and an extension has recently been announced until at least May next year. The central element to the Commission’s work is truth and reconciliation rather than seeking to bring the perpetrators of human rights violations to court.

The members of the Commission are all well-respected in the field of human rights law and are widely considered to be competent for the work of the Commission.

Human Rights (Tibet)

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of China on the protection of human rights in Tibet. [68195]

Mr. McCartney: I would like to apologise to the hon. Member for the delay in replying.

We regularly raise human rights issues, including Tibet, with the Chinese Government. I raised human rights in Tibet during my visit to China this month. Tibet was discussed at the EU-China human rights dialogue in May and the UK-China human rights dialogue on 3 July, including individual cases of concern. EU representatives in Beijing raised reports of violent handling of a protest at Drepung Monastery with the Chinese Government in December 2005. We will continue to raise concerns about human rights abuses in Tibet at every appropriate opportunity.


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India

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she plans to have with her counterpart in India about whether there are any security lessons that the UK can learn from the recent bombings in Mumbai, India. [86885]

Dr. Howells: I would expect future discussions with Indian Ministers to include terrorism and the implications of the Mumbai bombings. UK officials here and in India have been in detailed discussions with the Indian authorities following the bombings and are considering what lessons we need to draw from these attacks. The authorities in India are still conducting their investigations.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of (a) discussions between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Mamnohan Singh of India regarding giving India access to US nuclear technology and (b) the implications of those discussions for (i) the non-proliferation treaty and (ii) regional stability. [86898]

Dr. Howells: We believe the agreement between the US and India on nuclear arrangements can make a significant contribution to energy security, development, economic and environmental objectives for India and the international community, as well as representing a net gain for the non-proliferation regime. The UK has strongly supported this initiative from its inception and has been actively involved throughout.

We also believe that the initiative can have a positive impact on the broader nuclear non-proliferation framework, of which the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) is the cornerstone. We do not believe the agreement will have a direct impact upon the NPT. We remain committed to the objective of universal NPT adherence.

India has undertaken for the first time to put a large proportion of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, including all future civilian reactors, to sign an additional protocol with the IAEA, to adhere to the guidelines of the missile technology control regime and the nuclear suppliers group, to continue its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, and to work with the US for a multilateral fissile material cut off treaty. Implementation of these commitments will bring India further into, and thereby strengthen, the broader nuclear non-proliferation framework, which is underpinned by the NPT. We judge that these steps will enhance regional stability.

Khmer Insurgents (British Training)

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs further to the letter of 23 December 2005, (your ref: 967/05: Freedom of Information), promising a response as a matter of urgency
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to the letter from the hon. Member for Sunderland South of 25 November 2005, on British training of Khmer insurgents in the 1980s, when she expects to reply. [87087]

Mr. McCartney: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is conducting an internal review of its handling of my hon. Friend’s Freedom of Information request and hopes to provide a substantive response within one month.

Libya

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what agreements were reached during recent discussions between the Government and the Libyan Government. [86467]

Dr. Howells: I visited Libya from 25-27 June and met the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Ministers for Justice, Training and Employment, Economic Co-operation, and Europe. Our discussions covered bilateral relations, co-operation on counter terrorism, education and training, human rights, migration, and trade and investment. I raised the case of WPC Fletcher and also the Bulgarian and Palestinian medical staff and the HIV crisis in Benghazi. We shared views on regional issues, including Darfur.

I met again with the Libyan Minister for Europe in London on 17 July. During the visit I signed on behalf of the UK the ‘Joint Letter on Peace and Security’, a copy of which has been circulated in the United Nations Security Council. I will arrange for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House and also for a copy of the ‘Joint Letter on Peace and Security’, to be sent to the hon. Member. The UK’s discussions with the Libyan Government are ongoing.

North Korea

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the UK Government supports Japan’s proposed freeze on North Korean assets held overseas following recent missile tests. [86899]

Mr. McCartney: On 15 July, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1695. This requires UN member states to prevent missile and missile-related items, materials, goods and technology being transferred to or from the North Korean missile or weapons of mass destruction programmes, and prevent the transfer of any financial resources in relation to those programmes. The UK will implement this resolution in full, and expects others to do the same. It is entirely understandable that those in the region most immediately threatened by North Korea's actions might wish to consider additional measures of the sort in mind in Japan.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the UK Government made to support the UN resolution criticizing North Korea's recent missile tests proposed by the UN ambassador from Japan. [86900]


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Mr. McCartney: The UK strongly agreed that the UN Security Council should respond urgently and robustly to North Korea's missile tests of 5 July. We therefore worked closely with Japan and other Security Council partners on the draft resolution. Security Council Resolution 1695, which was unanimously adopted by the Security Council on 15 July, condemns North Korean behaviour and requires them to suspend missile testing, re-establish their moratorium on tests, and return immediately, without pre-conditions, to the six party talks on their nuclear weapons programmes. We have urged the North Koreans to comply with these requirements and hope they will do so without delay.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many parliamentary questions tabled to her Department were awaiting a reply on 10 July 2006; which of those had been waiting longer than (a) two and (b) three weeks for a reply; and what the reason for the delay was in each case. [85205]

Mr. Hoon: There were 113 parliamentary questions tabled to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) awaiting reply at the end of 10 July 2006. Of those, 12 had been waiting more than two weeks and up to three weeks for a reply and 16 had been waiting longer than three weeks for a reply.

The reasons for delay can be categorised as follows:

The FCO places great importance on parliamentary questions and undertakes to answer all questions promptly. FCO Ministers and officials endeavour to answer named day questions on the allocated day and ordinary written questions within one week. Since October 2005, the FCO has answered 80 per cent. of ordinary written questions and 78 per cent. of named day questions on time.

Somalia

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the political situation in Somalia. [86412]

Mr. McCartney: The Government are concerned at the recent violence in Somalia. We condemn it and urge all parties within, and outside, Somalia not to take any action which might perpetuate or provoke further violence, endanger the fragile cease-fire agreed between the Transitional Federal government and the Islamic Courts in Khartoum on 22 June, threaten the progress of dialogue between the parties in Somalia or damage the already dire humanitarian situation there. We promote dialogue, not confrontation. There are no military solutions to Somalia’s problems.

The UK welcomes the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement issued on Thursday
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13 July 2006. As it states, support for the Transitional Federal Institutions as the route to restore peace and security to Somalia, broad-based and inclusive dialogue and compliance with the UN Arms Embargo on Somalia should represent the cornerstones of the international community’s Somalia policy. The full text of the statement can be found on the UN website at:

Southern Iraq Donor Group

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the (a) remit and (b) membership is of the Southern Iraq Donor Group; how often it meets; what its goals are; how its performance is measured; and if she will make a statement. [86678]

Hilary Benn: I have been asked to reply.

The Southern Iraq Donor Group’s (SIDG) goal is to improve the co-ordination of donors in the region and to create the necessary relationships to ensure good communication.

SIDG meets in Basra once or twice a month. The meetings are co-ordinated and chaired by the United Nations. Although no fixed membership exists, most of the international actors in Southern Iraq—both military and civilian—attend the meetings including, for example, the US State Department, the United States agency for International Development (USAID), Multi-National Division (South East), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), the US Military Corps of Engineers and the Danish Office. Not only is DFID one of the founders of the group, but it remains a member.

The outcomes of workshops, implications of policy decisions and the impact of visits to Basra are all discussed, as well as any future joint projects and workshops that donors agree on.

As for the performance of the SIDG, there is consensus among participants that it has been very effective in bringing donors together and has improved co-ordination both of programmes and communications.


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